update: my employee keeps getting deadnamed by a coworker

It’s the launch of this year’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager! Every day this month, I’ll be running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. To kick us off…

Remember the letter-writer whose employee kept getting deadnamed by a coworker? The coworker, Lizzy, insisted she would only use the name the coworker was given at birth “out of respect for his mother.” Here’s the (epic) update.

Hearing from Alison and all of the commenters made me realize that I needed to talk to John about what he wanted to do. I apologized to him for not being proactive enough with this problem and for underestimating just how offensive Lizzy’s actions were, reiterated that I was on his side, told him that I was setting up a meeting with Lizzy and her manager for later that day, and asked what he wanted to do and what he wanted me to do. He admitted that although he was joking about it, he was actually really upset by Lizzy constantly dead naming him, so in addition to needing her to stop, he would rather not work with her anymore, or at least work with her as little as possible. I also told him that I was willing to make a big stink about both Lizzy’s actions and HR’s inaction to my boss (Lizzy’s grandboss) and the higher ups in HR, but that I wanted to make sure he was comfortable with being explicitly identified as being transgender and experiencing transphobic harassment. He said he was worried about escalating the issue himself, because he didn’t want to come off as pushy or overly sensitive, but that he did want me to do it.

I took Alison’s advice with Lizzy’s boss and just checked his and Lizzy’s Outlook calendars to find a time when they were both free and set up a meeting, figuring that his dislike of confrontation meant that he would go along with it. I said that Lizzy’s offensive behavior towards John had gone on way too long and that she needed to immediately stop calling him any name other than John. She tried to say that she had no problem with transgender people (I had not mentioned anything about him being trans, only that she had to call him by his name) and that it was a matter of respect for his mother, but I interrupted her and said that John’s mother and her feelings were irrelevant and that she was being deeply disrespectful to John, who is actually her coworker and thus actually needed her respect. I also said that it didn’t matter how she felt about trans people or if she didn’t intend to be transphobic, purposely calling John by his dead name was a transphobic action and it needed to stop, and that until I could trust her to treat him with respect, she was not to attend any of our team meetings and any workflow that would normally pass between her and John would go through me first and I would pass on the information. Her boss spoke for the first time then and said that that sounded like it might make us miss deadlines on some of our tighter turnarounds, which I agreed was true, but that given that Lizzy refused to use John’s name, I felt I had an ethical duty to prevent her from speaking to him at all, not to mention that allowing her to continue harassing him would open us up to litigation. I tried to say this all as matter-of-factly as possible, so it would be clear that I didn’t care how Lizzy actually felt about mothers or trans people, and that I wasn’t asking for suggestions on what should be done.

After that meeting, I emailed my team and explained that due to Lizzy’s outrageous and offensive behavior, I was changing our procedures so that she and John would no longer have direct contact, and that they should expect some delays in communication between her and our team. I also apologized for having allowed her to behave in such a blatantly transphobic fashion for close to a month, which should never have been tolerated at all, and explained that I had told her that she had to stop immediately, so if she referred to John as Sally again, they should let me know, either by forwarding me an email if it was in writing or by documenting the incident if it were over the phone or video chat, and should also feel free to tell her that she was being offensive and needed to stop.

This is when things get satisfying! My boss was included on the email to my team, and he called me about half an hour later asking about it. I hadn’t told him much about the Lizzy situation, because he has very little patience for people complaining about their interpersonal conflicts to their boss, and while this is a lot more significant than an interpersonal conflict, I thought he wouldn’t want to hear about it anyway, especially since he doesn’t have much contact with my team in normal times and has had even less while we’ve been virtual. Once I explained what had been happening, he said that was the most ridiculous thing he’d ever heard and set up a meeting for the two of us with the head of HR for the next day (I asked John if he wanted to come and he said he’d rather not and he trusted me to take care of it). The head of HR agreed that this was outrageous and that HR should never have tolerated it. A week later, Lizzy got fired. Then the HR rep who had said this wasn’t explicitly transphobic got fired about about a week and a half later, Lizzy’s boss had to go through some pretty extensive management training and there’s talk that he may transfer into a position without any direct reports, the entire HR department did training on LGBT issues and what is now required of them because of Bostock v Clayton County, the entire company got an anonymous survey asking if we had ever been harassed or felt that we were the victim of discrimination in the workplace, and the head of HR personally apologized to John for the first HR rep’s mishandling of the case and encouraged him to come to her if he ever felt harassed based on his gender identity.

I also sent John the link to my original letter, and he told me to thank everyone for all your supportive comments. And of course I want to thank you all as well, for giving me the confidence to escalate this situation the way I should have from the beginning. It’s seeming more and more like Lizzy, her boss, and the first HR rep were problems, but that the company as a whole really is the good place to work that I’d always thought it was.

{ 499 comments… read them below }

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      It’s brilliant that the first update of update season was so positive. I feel bad that John had to go through that and met with incompetence along the way but I hope he’s satisfied with how it’s turned out too.

      1. Batty Twerp*

        Yippee!!! John is a 2020 winner.
        (Does a happy dance in my little home office – to the slight consternation of the neighbours! Here’s hoping I can confuse them further with more happy dances with the rest of this season’s updates?)

        1. Nesprin*

          I’d argue that OP is the winner- she figured out how to prevent her people from being harassed, dealt with the harasser in a profoundly professional but firm manner, dealt with a cruddy HR rep and managed to bring her “no patience for interpersonal stuff” boss around to the team. That’s really impressive!

          John got the respect that any human deserves.

            1. Massmatt*

              Well, I was surprised he was only looped in later too, but this is the boss’s responsibility, according to the LW he had very little interaction with the group before COVID and even less now that people are remote, and has said he doesn’t want to deal with people’s personal interactions. If you take yourself out of the loop, you can’t complain when people go around you.

              I think it’s odd that out of all the things to be outraged about in this whole situation, the fact that the boss wasn’t informed first is what you find abhorrent.

              1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

                I don’t know what RiverRose said, but the OP did loop the boss in:

                “I hadn’t told him much about the Lizzy situation”

                So she hadn’t kept him super in the loop ongoing, but he knew about the problem. OP could have possibly done more to let him know the severity of the problem, but OP herself was not fully aware until after asking for advice. If he heard one of OP’s reports was being harassed, that should have been enough to make him take action or coach OP. But he didn’t take notice until OP realized what she needed to do (and, in fact, she did pretty good, given that she thought HR was not a viable resource and she wouldn’t have support from Lizzy’s boss).

    2. pleaset cheap rolls*

      This whole section is so boss:

      “I interrupted her and said that John’s mother and her feelings were irrelevant and that she was being deeply disrespectful to John, who is actually her coworker and thus actually needed her respect. I also said that it didn’t matter how she felt about trans people or if she didn’t intend to be transphobic, purposely calling John by his dead name was a transphobic action and it needed to stop, and that until I could trust her to treat him with respect, she was not to attend any of our team meetings and any workflow that would normally pass between her and John would go through me first and I would pass on the information. Her boss spoke for the first time then and said that that sounded like it might make us miss deadlines on some of our tighter turnarounds, which I agreed was true, but that given that Lizzy refused to use John’s name, I felt I had an ethical duty to prevent her from speaking to him at all, not to mention that allowing her to continue harassing him would open us up to litigation. I tried to say this all as matter-of-factly as possible, so it would be clear that I didn’t care how Lizzy actually felt about mothers or trans people, and that I wasn’t asking for suggestions on what should be done.”

      1. Paddling as fast as I can*

        Way to go. This is a great update and you are correct Lizzy was totally off base and being fired was the only way.

      2. EgyptMarge*

        I threw my hands up and cheered! It kept getting better and better with each sentence!

        Way to go, OP!! Excellent management for the win!!

      3. LKW*

        Agreed wholeheartedly! I love the “this is not a negotiation this is a directive” language.

        Also love that once big boss had an inkling of what was going on – big boss got HR boss involved and took swift and decisive action. To the OP – lesson learned for you, this was not interpersonal dynamics. You did do a lot right and this situation would have never had the awesome outcome had you not reflected, asked for guidance and taken decisive steps; but now you know your boss may not care if people like one another but clearly cares whether people treat each other with respect.

      4. HR Jeanne*

        “I didn’t care how Lizzy actually felt about mothers or trans people, and that I wasn’t asking for suggestions on what should be done.”

      5. Tabby*

        I cheered so hard at this: now THAT is how you bring the hammer down on foolery. That by itself was amazing as hell, and I love it.

      6. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, when they said “This is when things get satisfying!” I was like I guess from their perspective things didn’t get satisfying until they saw results, but as a reader I would say that is the part where it started to get satisfying, and then it only got better from there.”

        Especially the part where Lizzy’s boss spoke up about timelines. Like, gee, if only there were some extremely simple solution to prevent that. Like one person in this room simply agreeing to stop being a complete ass and just call a man by his name, jeez.

    3. pleaset cheap rolls*

      Also, worth a look at the original letter which has this interesting response from John to the deadnaming:

      “John has now started exclusively calling Lizzy “Elizabeth”; there is another Elizabeth in the office, and if there’s any confusion over which Elizabeth he’s talking about, John uses Lizzy’s maiden name, rather than her married name. Lizzy HATES this and has complained to him, me, and half the office, but he says that it’s out of respect for her mother.”


      Lizzy being fired is better, but this is pretty lively.

      1. Massmatt*

        It was some great jiu-jitsu, no doubt, but no substitute for having a manager deal with the problem head on as OP did.

        I am still puzzling out how Lizzie insisted on deadnaming someone (out of “respect for their mother”? WTF!?) and yet insisting she has no problem with trans people. LW was absolutely right to keep that from being the focus but still, WTH?

        Also, it’s strange that Lizzie first knew John as John, and only even found out about the dead name by reading old publications. I mean, I can see someone being a jerk and resisting a change in someone’s name and pronouns, but changing what name you call someone based on …research? Very weird.

        1. Morning Flowers*

          Easy — she DOES have a problem with trans people, and knows it, and thinks claiming a nice-sounding BS other reason will give her cover for getting away with it precisely because people will make an earnest effort to take her at her word and try to “get her to understand.”

          Alternately, she DOES have a problem with trans people, but won’t admit that to herself fully, and the same behavior results because the first person she needs to excuse her bad behavior to is herself, so instead of an honest self-examination about her I-have-a-problem-with-this-feelings, she can pretend she doesn’t have the feelings while still being able to act (nastily) on them. This kind of coping strategy is common because you can kind of fool yourself into thinking you’re in a win-win situation (“I’m a good person, but I also get to act out!”), but since you aren’t being emotionally honest you tend to dig in your heels instead of digging into your feelings, and problems usually escalate from there.

          1. whingedrinking*

            I think the weirdest thing about this excuse is that it’s not even a common one that people spout off, like “I don’t have a problem with women in charge, I just don’t like this one” or “I’m just concerned that a person from another country wouldn’t fit in with our culture”. I’ve *never* heard someone say that respect for someone’s mother is a good reason to object to someone else’s behavior, let alone an adult’s decision of what name they want to be called. If “but what if children get confused?” is thinly veiled bigotry, “I’m respecting your mother” is a square of cellophane.

            1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

              I’ve heard this excuse and similar in other places, though I agree it’s not the first one. I presume Lizzy is older than John, perhaps of an age to be his mother, so she’s thinking from her perspective. SHE would be upset if HER kid was trans, but once again she can’t own these feelings, so she finds the least blamable reason she can think of, that your mother gave you that name (which is a massive assumption) and it’s “disrespectful” to throw it away. Which does double duty of venerating heteronormativity (the role of a mother) to a stereotype and a pedestal while also being an excuse to discriminate and harass.

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                Yeah there are really just so many reasons it is ridiculous on its face

                1) Just SO obviously a lie.
                2) It’s so weird to prioritize the respect for a person you will never meet over the person standing directly in front of you.
                3) It’s also weirdly sexist. Like you said–why assume his mother named him? Where is his father in this and is he for some reason not as deserving of this hypothetical “respect”? Or maybe a different relative or family friend named him.
                4) So, so, so, so, so many people go by a name other than the one they are given at birth, as she apparently demonstrates herself TWICE by using a nickname and taking her husband’s last name. She apparently didn’t feel she was disrespecting her own mother with those choices.

        2. Littorally*

          Plenty of people do it. They think that it only counts as “having a problem with” trans people if they openly say “trans people suck.” Anything less than that is ~concern~ or ~just asking questions~ or ~personal opinion~ or whatever schlock they come up with.

          1. Glitsy Gus*

            Yep. “I’m not burning a cross on trans peoples’ lawns or beating them up with a baseball bat, so CLEARLY I don’t have a problem with trans people! I just personally THINK you shouldn’t change your name/wear femme or masc clothing/use that bathroom. I’m not a bigot, I just have OPINIONS. I’m worried about your poor mother, which is OK because I am also a mother!”

            There are a lot of mental gymnastics people are able to run through to justify their crappy behaviour. OP, I am so glad your company took such a hard line when you got the attention of the right people.

        3. Karia*

          Oh lord, I’ve seen someone say that being trans isn’t real and that all people who think they are trans should be subject to mandatory therapy, and she still insisted she didn’t have a problem with trans people.

        4. Not So NewReader*

          People who hate, just go ahead and hate. They find “reasons” for it later as they go along.

          Lizzie had decided to hate John. She deadnamed him as an outward symbol of her contempt. Oh, whoops. Need a reason, okay, got it. “It’s out of respect for your mother.” Any reason will do, don’t worry about logic.

        5. RG*

          It happens to trans people all the time, unfortunately. It’s not even that unusual, and it’s why it’s so important to treat people’s former names as confidential when possible, because transphobic jerks will often find a way to “stumble” onto someone’s old name (AKA exhaustively research to find it) and then use it to harass the trans person horribly.

      2. nonegiven*

        I have to wonder if she got fired over what she’d already done or if during that last week she had doubled down on it.

    4. MusicWithRocksIn*

      Reading this while eating a hot lunch on a cold snowy day is just the best lunch feeling ever. I needed this.

    5. iceberry*

      It’s the most wonderful time of one hell of a year! Always glad to see people doing the right thing and doing it well!

    6. Paisley*

      I agree! Made my day. Bravo OP – what you did was important. Bravo to John for his courage! Bravo to OP’s Boss who continued to escalate the issue and Bravo to the company for the way it was handled once it all came to light.

    7. Jules the 3rd*

      YAY! Yay OP! Good job! Yay OP’s company! This gives me such hope.

      Yay John! Live your best life, may it be long and happy.

    8. Sleepytime Tea*

      OMG it truly is! One of the most satisfying updates I’ve seen in awhile. Giant figurative justice boner going on over here.

      OP, thank you for being a stand up boss and being behind your employee 110%. I imagine John greatly appreciates it. I know I’ve had issues in the past where I didn’t feel I could really trust my boss to handle it because I didn’t feel confident that they would escalate it with the required urgency or severity that I really felt it warranted. You truly stepped up and handled it. I’m very proud of you, and I’m sure John is incredibly thankful as well.

    9. The New Normal*

      Satisfaction is EXACTLY how I described it in my head. I feel bad that John effectively had to out himself to get that satisfaction, but I am so glad that OP pursued this and went over each step with John before, allowing John to control how he was outed.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this too. And they sent a clear message that transphobic behavior won’t be tolerated there, so John will hopefully feel safe being out at work.

  1. HS teacher*

    This is indeed a very satisfying update! Way to go OP. I am so happy things were resolved.

    On a side note…the whole situation is so offensive and transphobic, but specifically the excuse of “out of respect for his mother” just really makes my blood boil…

    1. Audrey Puffins*

      It sticks in my craw in the same way that the really vocal transphobic groups claiming they’re only looking out to protect women does. It’s pretty disgusting to justify attacking a marginalised group that way, especially as I myself am a woman and do NOT want their bigotry perpetuated on my behalf.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          AND HOW! Respect me by respecting my kid’s stated decision.
          Congratulations PP on a job well done.

        2. Brisvegan*

          I am a mother of a trans woman and I definitely Want people to use here actual, current, chosen name, not the name I gave her at birth.

          Anyone who deadnames my kid us NOT respecting me. They are actively hurting my kid and disrespecting me and my daughter.

          1. Anonynony*

            Yes! My child recently started coming out as transgender male, and anyone who insisted on calling him by the name I gave at birth (loaded with personal and family history as it is) would be showing the utmost DISrespect to me by not respecting my child.

          2. Lucien Nova*

            This is exactly the principle my parents live by. No one deadnames me in their presence (without having my explicit permission to do so) and gets away with it.

      1. AGD*

        Agreed. I’m a woman and want my trans friends (male, female, non-binary, and other alike) treated well and welcomed and respected!

      2. Batgirl*

        There’s also so much sexism involved in the implication that a woman (and not her male or female partner) is still hung up on her baby name choices, x years later, to the exclusion of all other considerations. It’s the whole “babyhood is sacred unto womanhood” crap. Really hilarious she was using gender asumptions as a ‘cover’.

    2. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

      I applaud OP for shutting it down without saying “what the eff are you talking about?” Which I would have said and in the original form. OP’s method was much harder to tone police.

      1. Not A Girl Boss*

        Right? This part of the letter “I interrupted her and said that John’s mother and her feelings were irrelevant and that she was being deeply disrespectful to John, who is actually her coworker and thus actually needed her respect.” was just *chefs kisses*

        1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

          I played this all in my head so I could commit OP’s energy as a professional and advocate and genuine powerhouse to memory. I need to be able to summon this incredible managing prowess! Wow!

        2. Diahann Carroll*

          Every time I read about good people management, it further solidifies that I’m not remotely cut out for it. My response to Lizzy would have been an eyeroll and, “Girl, BYE! KNOCK IT OFF!”

      2. The Original K.*

        That was so nuts to me, that she was trying to mask her bigotry with deference to a woman she’s never met, and it never occurred to her that maybe his mother would want her to treat her son with an iota of respect.

        1. Zweisatz*

          Well, thinking about the bigotted people around me, what they say isn’t necessarily what they believe, but instead a convenient cover that is harder to argue with than their true feelings.

          That’s why it is so powerful to discuss actions and not feelings or attitudes. Even with the smokescreen Lizzy was throwing up, her transphobic actions spoke loud and clearly and needed to stop.

            1. Zweisatz*

              Sure, but even in this thread you can see that people are compelled to argue with it (I don’t fault them, it is compelling), which shows how hard it can be to take a step back and dismiss the smokescreen to get to the real issue.

              These excuses aren’t helping these people because they are so clever in content, but because now people are discussing a completely unrelated thing that is not “Hey, knock off the transphobic act, no excuses.”

          1. LunaLena*

            Yes, this exactly. It’s a convenient way to justify bigoted views. It reminds me of the “protecting the sanctity of marriage” BS that was used (and still is) to argue against gay marriage.

            On that note, this update made me so happy I have tears in my eyes! Hooray for the OP, and hooray for John finally getting the respect he deserves!

        2. MusicWithRocksIn*

          The subtext in what she was saying was absolutely that John is hurting his mother in some way by being trans. Which is super insulting to John, but also pretty insulting to his mother. In general making assumptions about anyone’s mother without meeting them or hearing anything about them is pretty rude.

          1. AGD*

            I know, right? I got so annoyed by the huge number of assumptions in the original letter that I headcanoned a version in which John has two dads and his deadname was picked by a grandfather.

        3. Quill*

          Yeah, think I commented on it in the original, but there’s a special flavor of transphobia masquerading as “respect for women” that in fact does nothing for real women and probably also nothing for the fictitious versions of women that the transphobes invoke for us to respect.

        4. alienor*

          Right? And how does Lizzy even know that John’s mother doesn’t call him John too? Not that it would change the fact that John asked *Lizzy* to call him John, and that’s all that matters, but it underlines what a bonkers argument “respect for his mother” really is.

          1. The Rules are Made Up*

            It’s so ridiculous on every level! “I’m respecting your mother who I’ve never met by projecting my transphobia onto her and assuming she doesn’t accept your name or pronouns, so I won’t have to respect them either….. out of respect.”

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Or going the other way, mom is a horrible nightmare of a person who is serving ten life sentences and no one on planet earth respects her… except Lizzie who has NO clue what she is saying.

      3. I'm just here for the cats*

        I think if I was in Johns shoes I would have turned to her and said “actually, John IS the name my mom chose for me.” and turned around and walked off. Maybe John talked to his parents about name suggestions. Maybe John was the name the parents would have chosen if his sex at birth had been male.

        1. Batgirl*

          I was wondering about that too. How on earth would this woman know anything about their male baby name choices? Or know anything about his discussions with them when changing his name?

        2. pancakes*

          I really don’t like the idea of a grown adult trying to borrow authority from their parents in order to get a coworker to call them by their name.

          1. Batgirl*

            Neither do I, but if I used that move I wouldn’t view it as actually using authority. It’s more like an obvious to all gambit; like snookering someone or cornering them in chess. You’ve used their own play against them and they know what you’re really doing just as you know that their appeal to parental authority was just a move.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Sometimes you have to meet them with the ONLY thing they understand.

            No where near as big/important as OP’s story but decades ago some guy at work started making fun of my car. “Looks like something my grandmother would drive,” he said. With a totally serious face, I looked him square in the eye and said, “She did drive it. And she left it to me when she died.”
            I never heard that remark again. The car was built 6 years after grandma died.

            I dunno sometimes you have to leverage what you have to take back your own power. That was the roughest place I have ever worked. If you let them gain one inch, you were so screwed.

            1. pancakes*

              I think I know what you mean, and I’ve very occasionally dealt with that sort of person, e.g. fond of hollering and only respects people who holler back. Involving a parent feels categorically different to me, though, and seems less likely to be effective.

            2. Boots*

              I did that once. My husband and I had been married for years and were having fertility problems.

              A nosy colleague asked me – publicly – when I’d stop messing around and start a family. I asked her how many miscarriages she deemed acceptable before we stopped ‘messing around’ and carryied a baby through to term.

              She left me alone after that.

          3. JSPA*

            “You’re wrong even by your own (messed up) rules” is, broadly, an excellent, time saving, unanswerable retort, regardless of topic.

          4. 'Tis Me*

            John’s actual response – to call Lizzy “Elizabeth Maidenname”, also ostensibly “out of respect for her mother – after all that is what she named her” – made the same point beautifully (especially as it apparently wound her up no end as she evidently couldn’t see how THIS WAS BASICALLY THE SAME THING) without relying on borrowing authority about his identity from his parents.

    3. Stabbity Tuesday*

      I can’t get over the fact that she never knew John as his deadname, and just started using it after she found out he was trans and “discovered” articles he’d published under it. It would be terrible, but at least slightly more understandable if he’d transitioned while they knew each other and was just bad at/not bothering to remember his correct name, but she had to actively search his deadname out! And then to make it about his mom? I’d say this is going full mask off with the transphobia but it’s more like those mesh/lace masks where we can all tell you’re only barely pretending.

      1. Code Monkey the SQL*

        Yes, that’s the most absurd part of this! If you “aren’t transphobic” then discovering a coworker is trans shouldn’t change how you interact with them, let alone set you on a crash course into HR/discipline/firing. Just call him John.

        The amount of effort it would have taken to not be a jerk was monumentally smaller than the amount Lizzy expended here, and that’s sad.

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          “The amount of effort it would have taken to not be a jerk was monumentally smaller than the amount Lizzy expended here”
          Right? AND she ended up getting herself canned! Wouldn’t it have been easier just to keep your head down and your mouth shut? Obviously it’s not okay for her to have this bigoted thought process in the first place, but if she wanted to keep her job, at a minimum she could have tried keeping her ugliness to herself.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, this. We can’t start policing what people think, but we sure can do something about what they say and how they behave.

        2. Greg*

          Excellent point about Lizzie being unable to leave well enough alone. Totally different situation, but years ago, my brother worked at a law firm where a young associate tried to send around a mass email joke where one of the partners was the punchline. The IT department flagged it and deleted the email before it could go out. So the associate went to a Kinko’s, signed into a computer there, and re-sent the email to the entire firm. It was such a monumentally stupid thing to do that the firm actually went through the trouble of tracing the email to that Kinko’s, asking to see their logs, and proving that the associate was on that computer when the message was sent, so that they would have grounds to fire him for cause.

          I remember hearing that story and thinking, “Why did that person go through so much effort to be a jerk, especially when people tried to prevent him from taking it that far?” Same deal with Lizzie. She could have been as privately transphobic as she wanted to be. Given the company’s initial reaction, she almost certainly could have gotten away with a few offensive remarks without losing her job. But for some reason she insisted on pushing it to the point where the company had no choice but to fire her (in part, it should be noted, because of the OP’s stellar response in standing up for John). I will never understand what possesses people to do that.

          1. Code Monkey the SQL*


            She can think as she pleases – nobody’s entitled to anyone’s thoughts

            But it takes so little effort to just… call him by his name. And instead, she doubled and trebled down on this complicated logic that resulted in her being awful until it got her fired.

      2. OrigCassandra*

        I have several friends who have changed their whole entire names (gender transitioning one of several reasons), and the thought of anyone doing this to them makes my BLOOD BOIL.

        ARGH why are people. Or at least why is Lizzy.

      3. Guacamole Bob*

        Yes! I remember that when I first read the title of the original post I assumed it would be about a coworker who was struggling to change name/pronouns as someone transitioned or was being a jerk about the switch at the time of someone’s transition, but then it was so much worse than that.

      4. Insert Clever Name Here*

        I think in the original letter, the timeline was that Lizzy found the old articles published by Sally, which led to her discovering Sally is now John. STILL actively absurd that she decided to start deadnaming him because of the name attached to an old work document, though!

        1. Stabbity Tuesday*

          “She previously did not know that John was trans, but now that she’s interacting with him much more often, she’s found out. At first, she didn’t seem to have an issue with it, but then she discovered some articles he’d published while still going by “Sally,” and now she insists on calling him Sally.”

          I have very strong doubts Lizzie happened to stumble upon John’s old articles on accident.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            Maybe, but it’s also completely likely she had a valid reason to look at an old article. I write training materials for my department and sometimes get legit questions from folks about something I wrote 3 years ago. Lizzy could very well have wanted additional information about Sally’s article, couldn’t find Sally in the directory, and when trying to find out who replaced Sally (up until this point, this is what you’d do if you were trying to get clarification about something and couldn’t find the author, right?) learns that Sally is now John. That’s a lot more likely to me than she went digging for dirt on John, found out he used to be Sally, and is pretending to have stumbled upon that information and be concerned about his mom so now she calls him Sally.

            And just to be clear — Lizzy SUCKS and she deserved to be fired, regardless of how she found the articles.

            1. RG*

              There’s absolutely no way it was an accident. This happens to trans people ALL THE TIME–what you described with Lizzy deciding to dig for dirt is absolutely 100% what happened. I’ve seen multiple situations where a transphobic person found out a coworker was trans, and then went to truly extreme lengths of internet stalking and other digging to find out their former name, and the timeline the LW described with Lizzy finding out John was trans and then finding out his deadname is a perfect fit for that scenario. I know it’s probably shocking if you’ve never personally encountered it before, but it’s SO common and there’s no need to be giving Lizzy any benefit of the doubt here.

    4. JokeyJules*

      “Out of respect for my mother call her child by the name they told you to call them by. don’t disrespect my mothers child, out of respect for her of course.”

    5. New Job So Much Better*

      Yeah the only remotely possible way that makes sense is if Lizzy was actually his mom’s BFF. Even then….

      1. starsaphire*

        The OP and the update have made me wonder if “out of respect for your mother” is the new “but I have black/gay/whateveri’mdiscriminatingagainst friends!”

        Sorely tempted to run down that rabbit hole, but I’ve got a ton of work piled up today…

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          No, “to protect women!” is the transphobic version “but I have x friends!” Lizzie probably sat too far away to try to use that one, so she came up with her own, unique form of a$$holery.

          So satisfying to see this update.

        2. Stabbity Tuesday*

          What’s weird is that I’d never heard this “defense” anywhere else, but an actor just came out as trans today and I’ve seen it multiple times now on twitter, so I have to wonder if it’s something we’ll be seeing more as it spreads in popularity among transphobes.

          1. whingedrinking*

            And it’s safe to say that most of these people do not know Elliot Page’s mom and don’t give a damn about her personally. It’s the weirdest playground logic I’ve ever heard of.
            Also, on a complete tangent, why the *mom* specifically? My grandma and grandpa took turns choosing names for their kids in the forties and fifties. (It screwed the system up when my grandma’s third pregnancy turned out to be twins. Grandpa wasn’t expecting to have to name a baby that day.) Fathers and other guardians giving someone their name is hardly new.

        3. virago*

          The only logic I can discern in the decision by transphobes to invoke respect for mothers — and “logic” is using the word very, very, very loosely — is that they think that they’re honoring the authority of the woman to make a family decision. Faux feminism.

    6. Choggy*

      Yeah, I wonder how long it took “Lizzy” to come up with that as an “excuse” to cover up her transphobia. Because that’s all it was, an excuse to continue her gross conduct. So glad John’s boss had the courage to take the lead on this, I think that is why so many similar situations continue unheeded and without consequences.

    7. Nic*

      Oh yeah, definitely. I think that pretence of mother-respect is the worst part of it. Like, she can’t even muster the honesty to be up-front about her beliefs but needs a BS excuse to try and shame him with.

      And on a side note, it’s such a transparent excuse too – people change their names for SO MANY reasons all the effing time! (Parents gave you a silly name? Change it. You got divorced and feel like a complete fresh start? Change your name. Want to celebrate you favourite pop idol? Change your name! No seriously, one of my mother’s cousin’s had an ex-wife who changed her name by deed poll to Donnie Osmond!) It’s like when people talk about “the sanctity of marriage” being somehow lesser as a result of LGBT people having marriage equality, while at the same time not blinking an eyelid at straight people with divorce, adultery and impulse marriages in Vegas that last all of 24 hours before the inevitable break-up.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        I have heard rumors of a surgeon known as Dr. [firstname] Snowdragon and someday I would like the confidence to pull off a last name like that.

          1. Lucien Nova*

            Didn’t he choose that name when he was still small and his parents basically went “if you’d like to do that, well, then that’s your choice”? I found that so sweet. :D

  2. Littorally*

    Oh hell yes, this is even better than I’d hoped for. OP, great job taking this all in hand! I’m gonna be grinning all day.

  3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

    A glorious beginning to a glorious time of the year! Way to go LW!! And way to go LW’s boss and HR management!!

    1. Homeshore friend*

      I really hope that OP sends this post to John as well. I hope John can see the support from everyone and how invested and happy we all are in this story! Kudos to OP for stepping up in such an powerful manner. I am inspired to be more vocal in my own work life based on reading the update!

  4. dogmom*

    This is amazing! I’m so happy for you and John, LW. That is a great workplace, with the big boss and HR taking care of things and showing zero tolerance for that kind of BS.

  5. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

    Am I allowed to hope that every single update letter is THIS satisfying?!?!?

    Best wishes to the OP and to John!!!!

    1. Code Monkey the SQL*

      You and me both!

      That was epically satisfying, and well-handled by the OP and OP’s boss. Props to them for rooting out a particularly insidious form of harassment.

    2. 123456789101112 do do do*

      It is so satisfying that I am crying with happiness. CHILLS! So epic, so satisfying. John, I am so sorry that you went through this horrible experience. I hope that it is OVER now.

  6. SillyLittlePittyPat!*

    This is such good news!

    More companies and other’s need some relevant training on these issues. Kudos!

    1. Clisby*

      It’s so weird, though, that companies should need training on this. It’s a basic rule of common courtesy that you refer to people by names/forms of address that they want to go by. If a married woman doesn’t want to use her husband’s last name, you don’t call her Mrs. HusbandsLastName. If she instead wants to be Ms. MyOwnLastName , then that’s how you address her. If James really hates being called Jim, or Patricia hates being called Pat, you don’t do that. I think it’s even more of an offense when it’s aimed at someone’s gender identity, but the basic principle is the same.

      1. Claire*

        I agree that you shouldn’t really need training to grasp the concept of “if John says to call him John, you should call him John,” but I could see an HR department benefitting from training about exactly what constitutes discrimination based on sexual orientation/gender identity, especially in a state where being LGBTQ was not previously a legally protected class, and how best to handle the situation. Like, common sense should have been enough for the fired HR rep to know that this wasn’t okay, but there could be more complicated situations regarding possible discrimination in the future.

        1. Office Grunt*

          One would think that something would have come across HR’s desk after the Clayton County ruling, but either it didn’t happen or didn’t sink in…

      2. Clisby*

        Adding … I once worked with a man who changed his name years after I first met him. Not because he was trans – he changed his first name to something related to his original first name, and his last name to his mother’s maiden name. He sent out an email explaining this to people he mainly worked with, and …. there was no drama. I’m sure many, like me, were kind of curious about the backstory, but if that was now his name, it was his name.

        1. Gaia*

          Exactly! The absolute most thought I put into someone changing their name is “hmm… I wonder why they changed it.” And then I move on using the name they said to use. Because that is their name now.

        2. KTB*

          That happened at my work as well, but the guy changed his name (both first and last) right after starting a new job. His boss sent out a note that “so and so” is now “different so and so” and that was the end of it. I don’t even remember his original name, and I’ll probably never know why he changed it, but that’s fine–it’s not really any of my business.

        3. virago*


          I worked with a guy who told me that he took the occasion of his marriage to change his name from (let’s say) “John James Murgatroyd” to (let’s say) “John James.”

          He’d never liked the last name “Murgatroyd,” and when he and his fiancee discussed the issue, it turned out that she didn’t like it either. They wanted to have the same last name, so they agreed that “James” would be fine.

          John James brought up his name change during a couple of child-naming discussions at work. A couple of people said, “Cool that you had middle name that could work like that.” Then, being grown-ups, we moved the hell on.

      3. starsaphire*

        Reminds me of those horrid little soi-disant “etiquette experts” who love to remind a new widow that “you can’t call yourself Mrs. John Lastname anymore, you know” just to make themselves feel superior…

        1. OrigCassandra*

          As a divorcée who did not bother changing my surname away from my ex’s, such that I am Ms. OrigCassandra ExSurname, these etiquette experts can bite my shiny metal butt.

          (I’m well-known by name in my profession. Switching away from ExSurname would just have gotten a whole bunch of people all up in my business at a time I really didn’t want people all up in my business.)

          1. Captain Raymond Holt*

            Elizabeth Warren kept her first husband’s last name. Doesn’t seem to have hurt her too much.

          2. AKchic*

            I kept my SECOND ex-husband’s last name and remarried for a third time. I didn’t like my 3rd husband’s last name and it was so unique that having it would have made my 1st ex-husband able to track me easily (he’s a stalker). As an added benefit, the majority of my career is in my 2nd ex-husband’s surname, as well as the majority of my professional certificates. I prefer the anonymity of the generic name.

        2. PollyQ*

          Which wasn’t even correct, back in the day. Widows were just as entitled as married women to use that format if they chose.

      4. Choggy*

        This, especially because “Lizzy” was so upset by John referring to her as Elizabeth, and yet could not grasp how she was making him feel by calling him Sally! It was all about her, and not anything else, good riddance to bad rubbish.

        1. Caliente*

          Of course she could grasp it. Just like racists grasp that, they just want to do it and pretend they don’t know any better.

      5. Jules the 3rd*

        It’s a microaggression, a subtle form of bullying that is often used against people who are transgender, and women, and BIPOC. “Oh, your name is Sathvik? Let’s call you Seth, that will be easier to remember.” “Oh, you’re Dr. Jane Foster? We’ll call you Miss Foster or Jane, but your lab assistant will be Dr. Selvig (Erik). ”

        It’s got different shades of shading depending on the target, but it is one of the commonest forms of harassment, because it’s so deniable. On the plus side, it’s so obvious with people who are transgender that bystanders are starting to understand it as harassment in multiple contexts.

      6. Observer*

        The thing is that it’s not illegal to be a rude jerk.

        So there are two things that HR could need training on. One is what constitutes illegal harassment and what “borderline” behavior could open the company to legal issues. The other is what kind of legal behavior should the company be looking at because of its negative effects on staff and performance.

        We see this all the time – HR claiming that they “cannot” do something because it is not illegal, even when they admit that it’s rude or inappropriate. That’s nonsense and bad HR practice, but it happens.

        1. LKW*

          At my company we have a policy of “respect the individual” and it covers all of the protected classes as well as the not technically illegal but common sense cases. We also have annual “don’t be a jerk” training.

          HR has options, this particular HR rep decided to choose the least respectful option.

      7. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        This! The transphobia makes it worse but it was pretty bad right off the start. I had an uncle who was called by a childhood nickname he hated. After he returned from the service and started dating his now wife, they told the entire family to not call him by that name. Entire family dug in and called him that more often. Multiple holidays ruined by huge ugly screaming/crying matches that eventually ended with a split in the family and them not attending family events for the most part. To this day 1 of his sisters refused to call him by his legal name and refers to him only as “Brother”. I am one of the few relatives who calls him what he prefers. I have no respect for the family at large due to their own behavior.
        It was very heart warming to see the OP have John’s back and the company’s big wigs to back that up. No sympathy to Lizzy for getting fired or for the original HR personal who dropped the ball. Its gonna be hard to top this update. This was exactly what 2020 needed.
        Sincerely, Uncle Jim’s Niece.

  7. irene adler*

    Fantastic update!
    I especially liked OP’s handling of Lizzy when she issued the “respect for John’s mother” excuse.

    Glad the company stepped up as well.

    1. BadWolf*

      I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but I can’t believe she kept trying to hold onto that gem even in the meeting. Like she knows anything about John’s mom.

    1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      It made me tear up a bit. I’m armored against bad news, but good news sometimes really gets me. What a wonderful update.

  8. Murphy*

    Great way to kick off update season!
    I’m so glad the higher ups acted quickly and decisively to take care of this.

  9. Works with Military*

    When an update gets posted, is it possible to edit the original post with a link to the update? Sometimes I pass the time by looking at old posts and it isn’t easy to tell if there is an update.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Since Alison usually includes the original title of the letter in her “remember the letter writer who…”, you can search the original letter’s title to see if there are updates if it isn’t listed in the related posts section.

    1. Ally McBeal*

      I agree, this would be super helpful! This would be a good job for an intern, if Alison has interns. (This was the kind of job I LOVED to do when I was temping.)

  10. Diahann Carroll*

    Daaaaammmmm! Everybody got fired, lol. Good on your pretty absent boss for finally stepping in and escalating this, OP. And good on you for taking charge and looping him in even though you thought he wasn’t going to do anything – sometimes people can surprise us.

    1. JM in England*

      This makes such a refreshing change from the usual closing of management ranks to protect the bully.

      1. cncx*

        yes that’s where i am at, usually bullies get protected but no they got rid of literally everybody who messed up here, im cheering

    2. Annony*

      I love the outcome but I do kinda hate the absent boss. You can’t as a manger just decide that interpersonal conflicts don’t matter. When people are afraid to bring up actual harassment, you have done something very wrong.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Exactly. I hope this situation wakes OP’s boss up and helps him to understand why it’s important to know what’s happening on your team. If OP hadn’t written in for advice and hadn’t gone over Lizzy’s manager’s head, Lizzy would still be there harassing John and demoralizing everyone on OP’s team in the process.

    3. Funbud*

      I particularly love that the stupid HR rep got fired also. Many times, they will fire the transgressor but let the HR rep stay with “extra training”.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        That HR rep was opening them up to a discrimination lawsuit. And what other potential legal issues was she just hand-waving away that they don’t know about? She sounds like she wasn’t in the correct field to be honest.

    4. BubbleTea*

      And YOU get fired, and YOU get fired, and YOU get fired…!

      Whole Problem Disposal Service in operation right there.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Lol! I really wish we could use gifs here because the Oprah one would be perfect for this update!

        1. Empress Matilda*

          For me it’s the Anna Kendrick BOOM! gif. All the happy gifs for OP and John!

          (Also a tiny violin for Lizzy, just because.)

  11. MissGirl*

    I’m curious what Elizabeth’s response in the meeting was when they finally pushed back on her and what her actions were in the ensuing week. Did she duck and cover or dig in deeper.

    Kudos to the grand boss for ripping the weed out at the root.

    1. Office Grunt*

      Based on this excerpt:

      She tried to say that she had no problem with transgender people (I had not mentioned anything about him being trans, only that she had to call him by his name) and that it was a matter of respect for his mother

      It sounds like she tried to justify her horrific actions.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Heard variants on it before:

        “I’m not transphobic! I just believe that that person has a mental illness that makes them think they’re a different gender and I want them to get help!”

        “I’m not transphobic! I just think they shouldn’t be allowed near children because it’ll confuse them!”

        “I’m not transphobic! I just think you shouldn’t be allowed to change your identity that much!”

        and the one that sends me into anger:

        “I’m not transphobic! I just think it’s a safety issue if you let (transgender woman) into the women’s loos because (insert incredibly revolting transphobic statement here)”

        (I have a rep for not tolerating any transphobia, homophobia, biphobia, acephobia…etc. in the office. Causes a few arguements. I’m kinda confrontational)

        1. BubbleTea*

          “I’m not transphobic, I just always bring up trans people’s gender identity in the belief it gives me a pass to treat them badly!”

        2. BelleMorte*

          Seriously, or the gem “I don’t want it shoved down my throat” when they are simply existing. Also ignoring the fact the transgressor is shoving THIER beliefs that they shouldn’t exist down everyone else’s throat.

          They are not existing AT you, dude.

          1. AKchic*

            In their worldview, their mere existence is the ultimate offense, and by having the temerity to do so where the offended person has knowledge of it, it *is* tantamount to being shoved down their throat because they then have to swallow the bile of their own self-perpetuated outrage and fauxcern for “the children and helpless women” they claim to be protecting.

            Never let a T E R F flourish.

        3. Jackalope*

          My personal…. favorite part about the restrooms argument is how easily it’s disproved. I rarely see someone arguing that a trans woman’s presence in the women’s restroom is dangerous then go on to actually care about any of the many ways that women (and children) are sexually assaulted and/or raped. There are so many ways that women can be assaulted that we know ways to prevent, but they either don’t support them or actively oppose them. And when people suggest what is the obvious solution to the restroom threat (which to be clear, I don’t consider an actual threat), namely having single stall individual restrooms, I’ve heard objections to that even though everyone having their own stall would 100% solve the alleged issue here.

        4. Boof*

          The bathrooms – I mean, I don’t even. I can’t tell if it’s a transphobia thing or a toxic gender stereotype thing (ie, that anyone with a y chromosome is incapable of behaving in a non-lecherous fashion in any semi-private situation, or something?)
          Or both?

  12. GigglyPuff*

    This is the most satisfying thing I have ever read on this blog, I’m so proud of you OP. You handled that amazingly, especially the push back on the possible delay of work. That meeting sounded amazing. I probably would’ve been so nervous my voice would’ve cracked. Best of luck to you and John!

    1. Zelda*

      “You handled that amazingly, especially the push back on the possible delay of work.”

      IKR! If you insist on being the biggest jerk this side of the Mississippi, then yep, you get to deal with the consequences. Excellent example of Returning Awkward to Sender.

  13. starsaphire*

    Standing up and cheering!!!! This is wonderful!!!

    Bless you, OP, and bless you, John, if you ever see this. We see you and we celebrate you.

  14. CeeBee*

    so heartening – I mean, let’s continue to make 2020 and 2021 the year of I’M NOT PUTTING UP WITH ANY BS!

  15. CatCat*

    Deeply satisfying! Well done, OP! And well done higher-ups who were having none of it once they knew about it!

  16. I’m screaming inside too!*

    I think this is the most satisfying update ever on AAM. Good on you, LW, for recognizing the severity of the problem, for being so sensitive to John’s needs, and for your expert handling of Lizzy and her boss in your meeting with them. And good on your organization for taking such swift and appropriate action! Wow!

    1. cleo*

      It says a lot about the LW as a manager that they were willing to learn and step up instead of getting defensive. And to actually talk to John and ask how he wanted her to handle it.

  17. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP — I especially like two things about the way you handled this: 1) you checked in first with John to let him know what you planned to do and to make sure he was on board with it; 2) keeping your discussion with Lizzy and her spineless boss matter-of-fact in tone and not opening yourself up to argument or justifications.

    You are a good manager and your firm is lucky to have you.

    1. The Original K.*

      I loved that part too – she took his feelings into account at every turn. She earned John’s trust.

    2. Claire*

      It speaks volumes that OP asked John if he wanted to come to the meeting with her boss and the HR head and he said that he trusted her to handle it.

      1. M. Albertine*

        This is what struck me about the letter, too. That several times John trusted OP to handle things to his benefit without his presence. That’s the mark of a good manager, and I think you can be proud of yourself.

        Plus, there are a lot of people who will learn from both your mistakes and your example, and hopefully prevent someone else from experiencing the harm John did.

    3. Zelda*

      “I also told him that I was willing to make a big stink about both Lizzy’s actions and HR’s inaction to my boss (Lizzy’s grandboss) and the higher ups in HR, but that I wanted to make sure he was comfortable with being explicitly identified as being transgender and experiencing transphobic harassment.”

      Indeed. This “You aim my lance; I’ll ride the joust” strikes me as a pretty good model for allyship. We allies can provide some of the power and take on some of the risks, but it’s got to be under the direction of those whose fight it is.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        “You aim my lance; I’ll ride the joust.”

        That is beautiful and I’m going to use it. What an excellent picture of allyship.

  18. Dadolwch*

    This literally brought tears of joy to my eyes, on a day I desperately needed some hope and optimism. I think it’s really difficult for people who aren’t part of a marginalized group to understand how moving and important the change OP made happen is. Thank you for making the world a little better, OP!

    1. Anonym*

      I burst into for real tears. So, so happy. Thank you for everything you’ve done, OP! You are a model manager and human.

    2. Grey Coder*

      I am still weepy. There is light and hope in the world. I hope I can be as good an ally as the OP.

  19. anonymous 5*

    This is when I really want a “best boss of the year” nomination category, because I would totally vote for OP here. :D

    1. President Porpoise*

      You know, with 2020 being the dumpster fire that it is, I think that would be a nice contest to have.

            1. J.B.*

              But if they are AAM readers could you substitute gold Barbie dolls, Hannukah balls, or rubber duckies? Because that would be hysterical.

  20. InfoSec SemiPro*

    Holy smokes! Nice.

    This is what “We don’t tolerate harassment here” looks like. Not tolerated. Supporting it not tolerated. A Very Clear message sent to the entire blast radius of what “not tolerated here” looks like.

  21. Honor Harrington*

    I’m so happy for John, and for the LW. This is proof that good management can make a big difference to corporate culture and to an employee’s life.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Yep. I love it when the perpetrator AND the enablers get busted.

      OP you handled this with much more professionalism than I ever would have. You have also clearly earned the respect and trust of your team when you invited John to the HR meeting and he said he trusted you to handle it. THAT’s a sign of a good manager.

      And boy HOWDY did you handle it. As your boss and the Head of HR.

      P.S. Don’t blame yourself for not bringing it up sooner to your boss. HR, who you should trust to know these things, told you it wasn’t transphobic so I can imagine you thought your boss would think the same way. You were right to bring him in when it might impact actual work. He then showed he CAN be a good manager when he tries by immediately going Oh hell naw, this ain’t flying on MY watch.

  22. notacompetition*

    HELLLLLLLL YEAH!!!!!! This is my favorite part: “I tried to say this all as matter-of-factly as possible, so it would be clear that I didn’t care how Lizzy actually felt about mothers or trans people, and that I wasn’t asking for suggestions on what should be done.”

  23. Mona Lisa*

    What an amazing start to update season! OP, I am so happy you and your company were able to do right by John and that the people in the wrong got their comeuppance.

  24. Morticia*

    This is fantastic. I am grinning ear to ear. The schadenfreude is real. Can we have an update of the year contest?

  25. Llellayena*

    Wheeeee! Score 1 (or 100) for trans rights! The more times something like this happens, the better things will get overall. Sometimes it just takes one person to open everyone’s eyes.

  26. Aneurin*

    I’m legitimately crying (happy tears!) at my desk. OP, you are a good manager and you should feel good. Thank you for having your trans co-worker’s back so thoroughly and sensitively.

  27. Xenia*

    This should be a textbook situation on how to handle awkward/uncomfortable topics as a manager. The LW handled this super well and I’m definitely taking notes on how to handle situations that might come up in my own jobs.

    1. LilyP*

      Yes! I’m so glad I have this blog for positive case studies on how to handle stuff like this well.

  28. Zephy*

    [tina fey high fiving a million angels.gif]
    This is an excellent start to update season! The pettiest part of me wonders how Lizzy frames this whole situation, losing her job and all, but maybe she should have thought of that before sucking out loud so bad.

  29. Cheesehead*

    Wow! That’s a wonderful outcome!
    And with the junior HR rep not handling the situation well, it kind of reminded me of the letter about the expense reports getting audited, where the problem was really just one junior rep who was trying to make a name for himself by nickel and diming the OP with her very reasonable expenses. He was actually going rogue and wasn’t really authorized to do any of that, and his bosses were horrified when they found out. Sounds like a similar type of thing where a junior employee does something and it seems wrong, but there’s hesitation to actually go over their head for clarification. I guess it’s a good lesson that if something seems to be wildly irrational or over the top, maybe you really should push to go to someone higher up for clarification!

    1. Observer*

      The difference here is that John’s boss (our OP) was willing to do what it takes to fix the problem while that OP’s boss wasn’t willing to take even the most basic of actions to resolve the issue.

        1. Observer*

          Right – I was talking about the boss of the one who was having his expense reports nit picked. (For anyone who is interested, this is where Guacamole Bob comes from.)

  30. SuperAnonForThis*

    This update literally brought tears to my eyes. The trans son of a close friend of mine committed suicide a week ago today. It is so very important for us all to stand up against this kind of bullying behavior. OP, thank you for both reaching out for advice in the first place and for standing firmly on John’s side.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Love and many many internet hugs. That hell is a deep grief, knowing it would not have happened if people were more accepting in the world.

      (RIP my friend Johnny who died in 2003 for the same reason.)

  31. pyewacket*

    Well done OP! All around brilliant. If this is the opening to the 2020 update season, the finale must be epic!

  32. DangerPossum*

    I am a total lurker on this site and never comment but I cannot contain myself, this update was AMAZING. The levels of secondhand satisfaction I feel are through the roof. Love this!!

  33. Slow Gin Lizz*

    I LOVE THIS SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!!! Giant kudos and mad props to OP for doing such a great job with this terrible situation. I hope John is also super happy that Elizabeth Maidenname is gone.

  34. Pipe Organ Guy*

    A great update to read on this December morning! It’s lovely to read that bad behavior can indeed have consequences.

  35. California Ltd.*

    As others have said, this is so satisfying! Congratulations, OP, and thank you for being a great boss.

  36. Almost Empty Nester*

    I love it! Hats off to you, OP…this is a case study in effective conflict management. Just super well done. Your company is very lucky to have you. Your management of the situation made it easier for the upper management to do what needed to be done. Just yay!!!

  37. ChemistryChick*

    OP, you handled this so well and even though I don’t know you, I’m so proud of you. You enacted major, positive change for an entire company because you stood up for your employee and what’s right. I guarantee you’ve helped other co-workers feel valued and safe, even if you don’t know hear about it directly.

  38. Puggles*

    I just want to post “agreed” to all these posts!!

    Well done OP! What a great and satisfying update!! Yay!

  39. Sparkles McFadden*

    This is such a great way for Update Season to begin! Thanks so much for sharing OP. You not only stood up for your staff member, but you made your workplace so much better in more ways than you know. Best wishes for a long and happy career!

  40. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    OP, you are a phenomenal leader and so is your boss. (Are you hiring?) What a great update!

  41. Dasein9*

    Thank you for doing this, OP.
    And thank you for sharing. You have just helped teach people how this is done.

  42. Amber Rose*

    Epic is an extremely appropriate adjective for this update. Wow!

    OP, I’m glad your company is awesome, and you fit right in. Regardless of how it started, how you ended it was picture perfect.

  43. employment lawyah*

    One takeaway of course is that this “worked,” and I’m happy for John.

    But I can’t help thinking that this whole thing might well have been handled better with early, firm (but lower-level) intervention, and that the focus on transphobia (which is good for John, of course) should not prevent investigation into the larger internal issue.

    I say that because this turned out to be a very fireable offense. In fact the company felt so strongly that it turned out to be a fireable offense even for an HR rep who didn’t categorize the offense as “transphobic” and the company spent a lot of time and money to deal with this.

    Yet if this was a red-level offense then IMO the issue is not only “now the company deals with trans issues properly, yay!”

    To me, it’s also “how the hell did OP and management allow something to continue WHATEVER IT WAS, which was so clearly considered by the C-suite to be 100% a fireable offense? How did management and C suite fail so badly to communicate this? How is the company going to prevent this next time, for any different offense which it considers equally bad?”

    1. Zephy*

      I’m sure OP’s manager isn’t the only one in the company who generally isn’t interested in “interpersonal conflict.” Maybe this is the start of a conversation about what constitutes “interpersonal conflict” and what rises to the level of fireable-offense conduct.

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*


        More generally it seems interpersonal conflict related to bigotry and/or legal liability should be escalated, whereas general BS need not not be.

    2. Minocho*

      The new training seems to indicate that the company understands this problem could have been handled better than it ended up needing to be handled. It looks like they’re trying to address this. To me, this is similar to how I get a better impression of a company that handles a problem with excellent customer service than I have of a company where I didn’t need customer service – the handling of the failure, however bad the initial failure was, tells me a lot about the essential nature of the company. In this case, it seems to be a good company overall.

    3. Phony Genius*

      I would say that the training that people had to go through after this should have been done long ago. The question is, who is responsible for waiting until now to have this training?

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      True – I am nowhere near HR, and I know the recent SCOTUS decision would apply here, making transgender part of gender and therefore protected. How does an corporate HR team not have that training by August at the latest?

    5. Elliott*

      It sounds like a lot of the problem was that the HR rep who got fired wasn’t handling the situation properly, and the complaint wasn’t going any further until the OP did something. And it sounds like there were a lot of efforts to get Lizzy to stop that didn’t work. I think the biggest takeaway from this is that it’s worth trying a different avenue or going up the ladder when someone who’s supposed to be able to help isn’t doing so and seems to be giving bad advice. I think that training and clear communication are important, but ultimately, it’s hard to ensure that there will never be a rogue HR rep who’s either incompetent or has bad intentions.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      If you go through this story, you can kind of see that everyone believed they would not get any back up. Fate was sealed with that remark about hating interpersonal conflicts.
      Well, here’s a clue: If everything or most things appear to be interpersonal conflicts, then that person is probably doing management WRONG.

      Interpersonal conflicts is get out jail free card. “There. Solved that one. Now I am off the hook for having to think about this further.”
      Unfortunately, that gloss-over is used more with people who are often the butt of prejudice and contempt.

      When I supervised I made it clear. “No one has to besties with anyone. But you do have to be polite and respectful of each other at all times. If you are having a bad day, you need to consider the other person may be having a bad day also. Part of what you are compensated/paid for is your willingness to get along with others. Can’t or are unwilling get along with other- you can leave.” This goes beyond areas covered by laws, by including basic civility. I had people who flat out refused to speak when spoken to because they did not like the person. I realized that this made the Silent Ones unable to do some aspects of their assigned jobs. I wasn’t going to put up with that either.

    7. virago*

      “To me, it’s also ‘how the hell did OP and management allow something to continue WHATEVER IT WAS, which was so clearly considered by the C-suite to be 100% a fireable offense? How did management and C suite fail so badly to communicate this? How is the company going to prevent this next time, for any different offense which it considers equally bad?’ ”

      Please go back and read the original letter and OP’s responses to the comments (as “John’s Boss”). After justifiably being called out by a lot of people, John’s Boss totally owned their part in not recognizing Lizzy’s transphobic behavior for what it was and stepping in ASAP.

      Here’s OP’s longest comment from the first letter:

      John’s Boss
      Thank you Alison for your advice and thank you to all of the wonderful commenters. Trans commenters, thank you especially for sharing your experiences and perspectives. You’ve all given me some things to think about

      Several of you have said that I need to be more aggressive about supporting John and telling Lizzy off, and you’re absolutely right. Reading through the comments is making me realize that I may have been underestimating how egregious Lizzy’s behavior has been. Of course, I knew she was being rude and transphobic, but truthfully, I’m not very familiar with trans issues, and I didn’t quite realize how terribly beyond rude she’s been. John is the only trans person that I know (at least, the only person I know whom I know is trans), and he’s generally pretty laidback and blasé, so I think I’ve been subconsciously thinking that because he hasn’t been that openly upset, it wasn’t that big a transgression, at least not one comparable to using a racial slur for a minority coworker.

      I’m definitely going push back with Lizzy’s manager, like Alison described, so hopefully he’ll see that he can’t just not say anything and hope the situation goes away. I’m also going to stop giving Lizzy plausible deniability by acting like she’s just making a simple mistake. Obviously, I knew the line about respecting John’s mother was nonsense, but I have to a certain extent been going along with it in that I’ve been a bit gentle about telling Lizzy off. I’ve also been a bit thrown off in that Lizzy does use he/him pronouns for John, even while calling him Sally, which has made me give her a bit more benefit of the doubt about whether or not she really is transphobic. That said, it doesn’t matter what’s in her heart, so first thing tomorrow, I’m going to tell her that I don’t care if her intentions are transphobic or not, calling John by his deadname is a transphobic action, and calling him by his name is not optional. (For the record, I go by an androgynous nickname, rather than my clearly gendered first name (think Alex/Alexandra) and Lizzy has never had a problem calling me by my nickname.)

      I’m also going to talk to John about exactly how he wants to me to support him. I’ve been a bit hesitant to bring this up the ladder because I’m not sure how comfortable John would be with that, but I see that this is an issue that should be brought up the ladder. I also want to check in with him to see how respectful the company has been to him in general–I haven’t noticed any problems before, and he’s never complained about anyone being transphobic, but given how badly HR has failed here, the company may not have been as accepting towards him as I’d thought. As a manager, it’s part of my job to advocate for my employees, and that means I have to be proactive. At least he needs to know that I have his back, that I will advocate for him, that I know this is unacceptable, and that worse comes to worst and he does feel he needs a new job, I’ll be a glowing reference.

      Formally disciplining John for calling her Elizabeth Maidenname was never on the table, I was only considering telling him to stop. I do generally think that it’s a bad idea in the workplace to be petty to someone even if they started it and they deserve it, but given how badly Lizzy has been behaving, I really can’t justify telling John to respect her preferences (especially since they are just preferences, unlike with his name).

      Again, thank you so much to all of you, and especially to those of you who are trans. Hopefully I’ll be able to give you a positive update soon.

  44. SimplyAlissa*

    I literally yelled “Woot!” out loud. Scared the cat. :P

    This is the best news to start off update month.

  45. Thankful for AAM*

    I wish you were my boss.
    Best to you and John and the bosses who did the right thing.

  46. Cese*

    I literally never comment on the threads and have been reading AAM for years, but I just had to for this one. JUSTICE TASTES SO FUCKING GOOD. Good riddance to Lizzy and that HR Rep! Trans lives matter!!!

  47. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I want every update this season to be this gratifying.

    Since it’s 2020, I know that’s not going to happen, but a girl can dream, right?

    OP, you are a lovely human. Thank you for doing the right thing.

    1. Bostonian*

      I lingered over that sentence and re-read it a few times because it was soooo satisfying! The HR rep also getting fired was the cherry on top.

      1. irene adler*

        Wish I was the fly on the wall when she got fired.

        Would love to have witnessed Lizzy’s comments.

  48. AKchic*

    I am so happy with this update. I am happy for John, who got a great resolution and is working for a supportive company, I am pleased that the bosses who did the *right* things when so many don’t, and ecstatic at the fact that those who weren’t got the comeuppance they rightly deserved. There is no room in society for that BS kind of thinking. If you’re gonna do it, label yourself appropriately so we can all avoid you.

    LW, thank you for doing right by John. I appreciate you.

  49. Rusty Shackelford*

    I want to say this could have been saved for last because it’s such a happy ending. Dare we hope there are equally good ones ahead?

    (Also, I really want John’s mom to call Lizzy and say “how dare you disrespect me and my son like this!”)

  50. HugsAreNotTolerated*

    I feel like this is the ideal update. Yes, Lizzy got what she deserved and so did the terrible HR person which satisfies the blood lust we all felt; but more importantly John got the recognition & handling of the issue that he deserved from the beginning and the company put in the work to make sure that no other employee would have to deal with this there again. I also appreciate that OP notes that not only did John receive apologies from OP, but HR & Big Boss too. Apologies can’t always fix the hurt, but they can help restore some measure of trust.

    1. madge*

      THIS. I had tears in my eyes during the resolution paragraph. An Afterschool Special couldn’t have wrapped it up more perfectly. I hope the outpouring of support from the company helps John well along the healing path.

  51. SarahKay*

    This is amazing. As I read it I just got more and more thrilled with every sentence and by the end I was doing a little happy dance round my living room. OP, what a fantastic job, and I’m so glad that your company did turn out to be willing to do the right thing – and how!

    Alison, thanks for starting the updates with such a positive one; it’s absolutely made my day.

  52. GS*

    I’m not out at work. I needed a hopeful cry at the end of a stressful weekend, thank you. I’m not out at work.

  53. Hey Karma, Over Here*


    I remembered this, who wouldn’t. I reviewed my comments at the time. I made a few with the last being “please give an update.”

    This is not an update.
    This is history.

    Huzzah, indeed.

  54. Jean*

    Satisfying update! But also frustrating, in that multiple people lost their jobs, and the OP and others had to do a ton of extra work, JUST BECAUSE LIZZY WOULDN’T JUST CALL SOMEONE BY THEIR OWN NAME! I want to say I hope Lizzy learns from this, but somehow I bet she won’t.

    1. madge*

      Exactly. And you KNOW when she gives her reason for leaving, it’ll be painted as a personal vendetta against her and her values. *eyeroll*

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Like the Starbucks person last week. I’m pretty sure it was the “I don’t agree that LGBTQx is ok” attitude that got her fired, not the t-shirt.

  55. KuklaRed*

    This is all incredibly, deeply satisfying. The only thing I wish could have been added is that Lizzy saw the error of her ways and apologized profoundly to John. Now she will go off still thinking that she didn’t do anything wrong and that she has been horribly offended and wronged. I was pulling for her to learn something from this, but I guess that was too much to hope for. But I am SO happy for John and the OP.

    1. Bostonian*

      Yup. It’s possible the outcome might have been different if she had been genuinely and extremely apologetic. The fact that she doubled down on her “reason” for harassing John left no question that firing was the only way to go.

  56. Aggretsuko*

    I can’t help but think that Lizzy clearly felt so strongly about not calling John by the name he wanted that she’d rather be unemployed in a pandemic than do it. Fuck saving her job, she’s just being an arsehole. So happy to hear that she’s gone.

  57. ceiswyn*

    Well, that update has set me up nicely for Christmas season.

    I’d also like to single out this one thing: “I […] just checked his and Lizzy’s Outlook calendars to find a time when they were both free and set up a meeting, figuring that his dislike of confrontation meant that he would go along with it.”

    Using his weakness against him! Nice moves you got there, OP :)

  58. Delta Delta*

    this is really satisfying! Not necessarily because the bad actors were terminated (that is certainly satisfying) but also because OP identified a problem, took steps to fix the problem, stood up for an employee and fellow human being, and the problem got solved. Now John knows the OP has his back and best interests in mind, and other people in the company see that, too. All around – very good!

  59. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I really, truly, am ridiculously happy that the transphobic (and the transphobia-denying) person got kicked out. It’s not “just my opinion” when you’re spreading words that cause others to be treated as ‘lesser’ to you.

    Way to go OP. *nods in approval*

  60. Empress Matilda*

    Hot DAMN, OP. You are a badass, and I love it! Congratulations on taking the lead on this, and getting such a satisfying outcome.

  61. Abogado Avocado*

    OP, what a wonderful update! You are a terrific manager and led your company to do the right thing. Three cheers!

  62. pert*

    Kindness prevails! I love when bad behavior is shut down quickly and loudly because it sends the message that the behavior is absolutely not tolerated and you will get kicked to the curb for it. Often time, someone gets a stern talking to, goes through some form of “training”, nothing changes, and others are encouraged to act the same way because they don’t see consequences for it. I’m so happy for John and OP!

  63. SomehowIManage*

    This felt like that moment in CandyCrush in which you make one move and it continues to have impact and rack up points. Sugar Crush!

  64. Baska*

    What a satisfying update! Well done, OP! I’m sure John really appreciates you going to bat for him, and I’m glad everything worked out so well.

  65. Mimmy*

    For some reason I missed the original post and went back to read it before reading the update. That was indeed satisfying!!! OP, we seriously need to clone you, you handled this situation perfectly. My favorite parts: 1) how you made it clear to your team that transphobia is not tolerated whatsoever and 2) that you checked in with John regarding how he wanted this handled; I especially loved that you invited him to join the meeting with you and your boss. You gave him a voice, and I think that meant the world to him.

    I’m all for not being overly rigid with language and actions, but when you are asked to not continue with such behaviors, even if not meant maliciously, YOU MUST STOP. This update is exactly how these things should be handled.

    1. Mimmy*

      Actually, upon reading what I wrote, maybe it is better to be rigid with language and actions. Strike what I said! :(

  66. Dr of Laboratoria*

    What an amazing and satisfying update!

    WAY TO GO, OP!

    I think it says a lot about how wonderful of a manager you are that John let you take the lead on this. That he trusted you absolutely to keep going and to get this harassment to stop.

    Can I come work for you? :)

  67. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*


    I am so glad the ones wrong in this situation got their comeuppance, and that your boss and the head of HR behaved the right way.

    Go you and go John!

  68. RJ*

    Chills!!!! This is an AWESOME update! HUGE shoutout to the OP for going out of their way to advocate for someone who may not feel comfortable/feel like they have the capital to spare!

  69. Paris Geller*

    I remember the letter but not all the details, so I went back and re-read the original. This is a SUPER satisfying update because of the outcome, but I also want to say to the OP that it’s also really satisfying to see a manager listen to good feedback and stand up for an employee. I’m sure you have a whole comment section who would love to work for you, OP!

  70. Rebecca*

    OMG, this might be the most satisfying thing I’ve ever read. GOD BLESS this company and all of the people involved for doing the right thing!!!!!

  71. RJ*

    Now THAT is how good management works! Good on you, LW, for sticking up for John and good on your company for taking the right actions.

  72. old curmudgeon*

    Question for the Awesome OP – do you have any openings on your team? You are the kind of boss that I would absolutely lay down my life for.

    Mad props to you for your amazing response, and for your incredible support of your team. I have to think the loyalty and appreciation you have earned by standing up for John is going to yield huge benefits for the company in general and for you in particular.

    Thank you for a wonderful start to December!!

  73. HeyPony*

    I’m so pleased to see this. I was just thinking about this letter the other day, and it has stuck with me since it was first published. As a manager and as the mother of a transgender person who will be entering the workforce in a year, I worry a lot about this exact scenario. Seeing it handled so well and with such a satisfying outcome makes me feel respected as a mother of a person whose life is hard enough anyway. I don’t need help from the Lizzies of the world.

    Thank you OP.

  74. Idril Celebrindal*

    “(I asked John if he wanted to come and he said he’d rather not and he trusted me to take care of it).”

    OP, I’m sure you already have realized this, but I wanted to highlight how much of a resounding vote of confidence this is. John is telling you that you have made him feel heard and supported and that your actions were clearly demonstrating that you have his back. To be able to step back and care for himself, and to trust that you will handle the rest in a way that he wants it to be handled is absolutely huge, and is a round of applause and sigh of relief all in one.

    Well done OP.

  75. AdAgencyChick*

    Congratulations, OP! You clearly went into these conversations well prepared and therefore had great things to say when confronted with outrageousness. I’m glad your boss knew what the right thing to do was, when so many other people in this story did not.

  76. Mystery Lady*

    Good job managing this. Thank you for the update.
    I have a friend with a transgender child. If I deliberately dead named her kid, she would NOT feel respected.

  77. lazy intellectual*

    ‘Tis the season!

    THIS IS HOW YOU DEAL WITH WORKPLACE DISCRIMINATION. I want to send a copy of this letter to every HR department in existence.

  78. RiverRose*


    Instead, wrote to an internet advice column. Before talking to the boss about this.


    1. Queer Earthling*

      Sometimes people need an outside perspective before they talk to their boss? I don’t think that’s a huge offense.

    2. anonymous 5*

      Sought input from someone knowledgeable when they knew that their boss wasn’t likely to be as helpful? Yep. Exactly the right order of operations.

    3. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

      You… read the original letter, right? You know that the OP wasn’t just blithely ignoring the issue? Your reaction to this update seems a little odd.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yes, it’s clear now with hindsight that the boss probably should have been looped in earlier but I think it is equally clear that OP was looking for a way to be able to solve it without having to involve their boss which is often the right thing to do. It’s not like they just said “I don’t think I can talk to my boss so I guess there’s nothing I can do, oh well” and then washed their hands of the situation!

    4. lazy intellectual*

      Did you not read the update. OP says her boss wouldn’t have been helpful. Also, Alison is more competent than most bosses IMO.

    5. Carafe*

      I share your concern on this. Yes, LW says their boss is not one for interpersonal conflicts. However, this isn’t a standard “so and so’s a meanie” interpersonal conflict where two adults can reasonably work things out. This is a situation where John could have filed suit against the company due to sex-based discrimination that the company failed to prevent. It’s in the company’s, and thus the boss’, best interest to know so swift action can be taken against Lizzy and the crappy HR rep, which is exactly what happened when LW’s boss initiated the meeting with the HR head after he’d finally been clued in. I’m glad it all worked out well enough in the end, but I also hope LW learned to be more open with their management when a situation like this arises.

      1. Krakatoa*

        I’d give the OP the benefit of the doubt that there are a lot of contextual cues here that made her think that boss wouldn’t have been helpful in this, and that she had as good a reason to be surprised as anything about him being as proactive as this.

      2. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

        One of the first stops was to HR. The OP is a manager. The OP managed the issue. The OP looped their hands off, absentee superior in while appropriately managing the issue. I just really find this whole segue strange.

      3. Pucci*

        A take home lesson is that when an “interpersonal conflict” is really something that could lead to company liability, then you need to talk to your own boss. But I can certainly understand OP hesitating to do so when HR said that there was nothing wrong with Lizzie’s actions. I can’t really fault OP, especially since they handled it so well in the end. That includes admitting their mistake to the entire team.

  79. Bookworm*

    Damn, was that an update. Thanks for sharing this, OP. I’m so glad that it appears this has really worked out for the better. All the best to you, the workplace and John especially.

  80. Observer*

    I don’t know whose behavior is more astonishing here, Lizzy or her boss. I mean, she is being EXPLICITLY told that no one cares about her “feelings” but that a specific behavior NEEDS TO STOP or it will affect her ability to do her job. And she just . . . refuses.

    Her boss is even more baffling to me, though. I mean he’s just been told that his team is going to start having problems meeting deadlines. He CONFIRMS that the OP knows this and doesn’t care. And he . . . does nothing? I mean I understand being non-confrontational. But, typically, when someone is non-confrontational when you make things uncomfortable enough for them, they will do something about it. Here, he is already stuck with the confrontation and has had the negative consequences spelled out for him. And he STILL refuses to act on the matter. That just makes no sense.

    I can see why there is talking of moving him to a position where he doesn’t manage people.

  81. kayakwriter*

    To me, this parallels a situation I had with a co-worker more than a decade ago. I’d always known him by traditional “Western” first and last names. After we’d worked together for a few years, he decided he wanted to be more respectful of his Chinese heritage and changed his professional and legal names to Chinese ones. Aside from some brief, joking, mock shock on my part at “discovering” he was Asian (we knew each other well enough that he laughed), it was no biggie and I’ve never called him anything but his Chinese name since. Because of course you call people the name(s) they prefer. It’s 2020, not 1965.

  82. Lorena*

    This is an amazing update! Good for you and good for your boss to make the necessary changes. I’ve worked with some transgender ppl and one that actually transitioned while employed with me and I have nothing but respect – and would never imagine someone being so rude and ignorant! In fact i was always worried I would call them by the wrong name – I think it’s always good to be welcoming and respectful with the people we work with and everyone we know.

  83. Paperwhite*

    LW, you are a rock star. I hope you and John and your team have a great time working convivially together from now on.

  84. Kate H*

    This is such a beautiful update, I’m starting to tear up. It gives me hope that there are actually good companies and managers out there.

  85. Fish*

    Good update. OP, I’m glad you eventually realised just how serious this sort of bullying is. This is why it makes me cringe when people recommend snappy comebacks to the sort of bullying John has been enduring — there was lots of this in comments to the original post — as it can have the problem that it makes onloookers sit back in satisfaction that zingers are being served without having to confront how deeply upsetting and dehumanising it is to be the victim of attitudes like Lizzy’s.

  86. Chauncy Gardener*

    Does anyone else want to be John’s BFF? Calling Lizzie “Elizabeth MaidenName” is exactly my brand of snark. LOVE that!

  87. lazy intellectual*

    Side comment: Does anyone else notice that Lizzy’s behavior is a pattern with bigoted behavior lately? Like, instead of being explicitly prejudiced, people exhibit prejudiced behavior and then go through lengths to explain/justify how their behavior is, in fact, not racist, sexist, transphobic, etc.

    1. Claire*

      I think it’s become (somewhat) less socially acceptable to come out and say explicitly prejudiced things, so bigots have to be a bit sneakier about their bigotry now. Which I guess is a step in the right direction, but not really a big step, you know?

  88. Kara S*

    Hooray!! I’m so happy to hear that John and LW fixed this issue and that Lizzy is no longer at the company to make things awful.

  89. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Thanks for the update!

    I currently am a fed, so I am waiting for Trump/Pence to leave office and Biden to come in before I come out at work- not a politics thing, but I think a less adversarial and more diverse leadership will make doing so safer. This gives me hope it would go well.

  90. Lizy*

    Anyone else secretly hoping Elizabeth MaidenName writes in to AAM asking for advice because they just got fired for reverse discrimination?

    What a great update. Good job, OP.

      1. anonymous 5*

        as would mine. I would pop a *large* amount of popcorn (and probably prepare many other snacks) and settle in for what would surely be a *stunning* show in the comments.

  91. OhBehave*

    Update season starts off with a bang!
    This is so satisfying on every level. All the right things happened at this office once the right people knew what was happening.

  92. I Need That Pen*

    My neighbors are going to come over in a minute to find out what all my noise is – it’s APPLAUSE. So much so my hands hurt.

    I am blessed to work for an organization that simply doesn’t tolerate this behavior on its face, not because a law says they’re not supposed to, and I am so proud of OP and the rest of the team they had behind them to right this outrageous wrong.

  93. King Friday XIII*

    I feel like there have been more dramatic updates but this may be the most satisfying in terms of the column just because someone wrote to Allison for advice on being a good manager and then took that advice and levelled up to be a better manager and, in doing so, made their whole office a better place to work for everybody that’s not a jerk.

  94. c_g2*

    This makes my queer heart happy. I’m glad OP took this action and owned up for their (brief) period of inaction. I’ve noticed it sometimes it seems like people want to see the minority person do a clever retort/etc rather than protect that minority person. Like the maiden name bit. That is hilarious but others should’ve spoken up for John long before that point. I wish I had a boss like you OP.

  95. TJ*

    My God OP, stand up and take a bow. This is amazing and how situations like this should be treated and resolved. Kudos to you and my support to John!

  96. aubrey*

    WOW this is so satisfying it brings tears to my eyes! I am not trans but have a loved one who is, and he has dealt with all kinds of ridiculous nonsense about it. I am so happy for John to have a supportive workplace. And seeing transphobes be actually held accountable is still so rare. Major kudos to you for handling this well OP, especially asking John how he wanted you to handle it, making it clear you were willing to go to bat for him, and then doing so.

  97. Mshiiken*

    I’ve broken my lurking to say that this update is so good. Thanks for writing and letting us know, and thanks for being a great manager!

  98. Lizzo*


    Well done, OP!!! You handled this beautifully. Long may you manage, and long may your team (especially John) prosper!

  99. Bob*

    “he trusted me to take care of it”
    This is a key piece of the puzzle. I am glad that he felt you heard him and had his best interests in mind. It could easily had gone the other way, him blaming you for not stopping it the first time it happened.

  100. Umiel12*

    I have been hoping for an update on this, but I never dared hope that it would be so satisfying.

  101. Third or Nothing!*

    I remember this one! I got *real* fired up in the comments. A lot of us did. I hope John enjoys the comments on this update as well. Glad there was a good resolution and your company did the right thing!

  102. cwhf*

    Oh how I needed that. Great job OP. The fact that Lizzy got rightfully fired was awesome but then the HR rep and the manager reassigned? This is amazing.

  103. LQ*

    This update feels like the point of this blog. OP had tried some things on their own to correct the situation. But couldn’t quite figure out the next good step to take in the right direction. So they reached out to a resource and said, here’s my issue. The response (and comments) all bolstered the OP to continue and it sounds like gave good support and advice on how to keep moving forward on handling this. OP went back and took good clear steps while checking with the right people (John). And made real progress. This update makes me glad for this site.

    1. I take tea*

      Yes, I agree! It’s not always easy to know how to act when people are unreasonable, and to reach out for help on how to handling things is the right thing to do, not to ignore it. Well done, both OP and this site :-)

  104. TimeTravlR*

    Thank you so much for standing up for John. My trans adult child has a very open, welcoming, and diverse workplace, but I know not everyone is that fortunate. You did so much for John and anyone else on your team who may feel marginalized. I want to hug you, OP!!!

  105. [insert witty username here]*

    This update literally gave me goosebumps!!! OP – well done handling this and not giving up after the initial roadblocks. I now aspire to handle things with as much swagger as you did in that meeting with Elizabeth. I hope John now feels comfortable at work. Also well done on your company for handling this correctly once the right people got involved. Elizabeth, her (former) manager, and that junior HR rep can get effed. I truly hope they don’t let that other manager be in charge of people any time soon.

    1. [insert witty username here]*

      Also wanted to underscore how much I hope this incident sets the tone for your team and your entire company. I feel terrible for John that it happened at all (Elizabeth just freaking sucks) but I hope he felt some satisfaction in how it was ultimately handled and can feel the support from you and from us.

  106. Deborah*

    I know it’s kind of beside the point, but I can’t help but wish that, like on Jerry Springer, when Lizzy pulled out the ‘But out of respect for her mother” line, they could have magically pulled in John’s mom to say “You are disrespecting me and my son by not using HIS NAME.”

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Omg! That is just literally the biggest line of BS.
      It reminds me of the courthouse lady who refused to issue the LEGAL marriage license to gay couples because of “her” religious beliefs.
      Like, you work at the courthouse not in a church. Issue the license to gay couples or quit if you cannot do so.

  107. ThatGuy*

    I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that this is one of the best, if not the best, outcomes/updates I’ve ever seen on this site.

  108. Liz*

    It’s kind of disturbing how satisfying everyone is finding this. Two people lost their jobs in a pandemic (bye, health insurance) over an incident that, while wrong, should have been firmly dealt with with a strong warning. Jumping from zero response to firing is an extraordinary step and the casual cruelty about that here is wrong.

    1. GigglyPuff*

      Zero response? They’d been told to stop by multiple people, they’d been reported to their manager and HR. They continued to harassing someone. An HR person let harassment continue after being reported, probably opening the company up to huge liability. If you’re this much of an asshole, your only warning, is the first time someone tells you to stop.

      If you don’t want to get fired during a pandemic, don’t harass someone, don’t be an asshole. They had tons of warnings.

      1. Liz*

        I think Alison has put my comment in mod, but tl;dr: HR should have dealt with it with a strong warning right away. That was a failure. However, jumping from zero HR response to firing is extreme and it’s wrong in the U.S. with no safety net. Why no stern warning from HR with firing on the table IF nothing changed? Why no mandatory training? Why not mandatory apology first?

        1. Observer*

          Because she had been clearly told to cut it out. She had been clearly told what the consequences to her team were going to be ! Why is there any need for “magic words” from HR? Also, the fact that she was fired the next week says that it’s quite possible that HR did speak to her one last time, and got the the same spiel.

          As for HR, we don’t know what was said to them, but given the lag between the initial meeting with HR Head and that firing, it’s a good bet that there actually WAS some discussion there as well. Keep in mind that the tack the HR person took was not just “a bad move”, it was a MAJOR lapse of judgement that truly called into question their basic fitness to do this job.

          1. Claire*

            Right, the HR rep, specifically, was fired two and a half weeks after the meeting with OP, her boss, and the HR head. If the HR rep had been fired immediately after that meeting, that might be hasty, even though it was for a pretty extreme act of incompetence, but two and a half weeks seems like more than enough time for the HR head to do some investigation and fact finding and then decide that the rep needed to go.

        2. GigglyPuff*

          So you think firing someone for repeatedly showing themselves to be transphobic is wrong? Who cares if it comes from the company or not, they were told to stop, multiple times. Being told to stop once by the person you’re harassing or being a bigot to (let alone by other people), that is the only warning people deserve.They were given chances to change their behavior. There are some things in this world that don’t deserve a formal written warning by HR. I think repeatedly deadnaming someone, when they know better, is one of them. Sorry you don’t.

        3. Chickaletta*

          Well, because this isn’t elementary school – this is the real world. Bullies in the real world don’t get sent to the principal’s office with a warning. They lose your job and everything that goes with it. Getting second or third or fourth chances after shitty behavior is a right reserved for young children who are learning how to be decent human beings, not for adults who know better.

      2. Diahann Carroll*

        THIS. I feel nothing for these idiots. They brought the firings on themselves, especially Lizzy’s bigoted ass.

    2. Littorally*

      Here’s a thought: when people tell you to stop being a bigot at work, stop being a bigot at work. Then you don’t have to worry about getting your bigot ass fired in the middle of a pandemic for being a bigot.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        Coming to say this. Lizzy had plenty of warning when she was told to cut it out. She also absolutely had the option to … not be a giant bigot.

        There are offenses bad enough where you don’t get warned by HR before getting the hook. This was one of those. If you call someone the N-word or similar at work, you should get fired, not warned. If you get caught stealing, you get fired at first offense. If you’re being predatorily sexist or misogynistic, that’s a firing offense. Lizzy is probably very upset, but she brought this 100% upon herself, so… **shrug**

        People are celebrating here because usually there is just warning for offenses that frankly should be one-and-done. This was an occasion where the punishment finally fit the crime.

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          Also, this is reminiscent of the conversations during the #metoo wave of firings where some people were upset that men did not get “due process” before getting axed for being predatorily sexist. Your job does not owe you due process. Your job is not a court of law. Your job owes the person who has been hurt just as much — or more — consideration vs the person who has done the hurting, and the person who’s done the sexist, racist, or bigoted hurting should probably be the one to go.

          The person who has been the bigot is not the injured party or victim.

          You’re not entitled to keep your job at all, period. You’re REALLY not entitled to keep your job when you have done something really wrong, which you knew was wrong, which you have been told to stop (which, again, was your warning), and which you have doubled down on doing.

          The fact that HR is just now getting wind of it has nothing to do with any of that.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Exactly. The firing in cases like this is not a punishment for those who were fired. It is for the protection of the remaining employees. People should get to feel safe at work, and Lizzy and the HR person were actively providing an unsafe environment.

    3. Krakatoa*

      They already attempted to handle it with a warning at a lower level. Lizzy refused to comply. This is her fault and no one else’s.

    4. Paperwhite*

      “an” incident? Did you not notice the continued succession of incidents described in the original letter? A calvacade of incidents, even.

      Yes, we are all delighted and satisfied to see a transphobe and an enabler of bigotry actually be stopped from bullying a trans man, for once in this bigotry-riddled society. Viewing these two as the victims is like viewing Biff Tannen as the victim in the Back to the Future movies.

      No matter how terrible a thing someone does, if it’s to a member of a disprivileged group *someone* has to defend the perpetrator. I swear to all the gods.

    5. TurtlesAllTheWayDown*

      Would your reaction be the same if we were talking about the LW who punched their coworker? Some things deserve swift, decisive, and serious action, and harassing your coworker based on a protected class falls under that umbrella.

    6. Observer*


      Firstly, Lizzy WAS warned – that’s why the OP wrote in to start with. They had spoken to her and she refused to change her behavior. Then in the meeting she was EXPLICITLY TOLD to stop using the name, and she refused again. And when she was told that in that case, she was going to have to filter all of her interactions through the OP, she STILL refused. How much more “stern” could the warning get without a firing?

    7. MissDisplaced*

      Yeah no, it did not jump from zero response to firing. Lizzy was asked many times to call John, JOHN. She flat out refused and there were consequences to her actions.

    8. Anongineer*

      Hi Elizabeth,

      The people in this story received multiple warnings, ranging from subtle hints to a meeting with the Head of HR. This was not one incident, but multiple incidents over a period of time that proved both people have a serious lack of judgement and are unable to perform their jobs. This was exactly the right response to the situation.


    9. JustKnope*

      Also, the abysmal lack of social safety net in the U.S. and the fact that employment is tied to health insurance are terrible… but also don’t mean that you don’t fire someone when they are harassing colleagues and refusing to stop after being told multiple times. Yep, it sucks that they lost their health insurance, but that’s not really the salient issue here – their transphobic harassment is. We deserve better healthcare AND their firing was warranted.

      1. Boof*

        It’s also pure speculation that they lost health insurance; they could have a partner with insurance, or use cobra to extend it for, or may they get a new job quickly – etc etc

    10. Fushi*

      Nah, repeatedly misgendering someone is casual cruelty. But that’s a-ok with you I guess?

      If you repeatedly demonstrate you’re not safe to be around by being a jerk ON PURPOSE, then getting kicked to the curb is a predictable consequence of your own actions. I don’t feel even a little bad for these people, and it’s deeply suspect that you’re more concerned about making sure that society continues to cushion the privileged even as they harm the marginalized WITH WILLFUL INTENT than in seeing this firing as a sign of positive change in how seriously we treat these issues.

  109. Feliz*

    My son is trans and this made me cry. It’s really great to see people sticking up for others. It’s okay to make mistakes as an ally, the letter writer at first didn’t know what to do, but she figured it out and was able to make a big difference in someone’s life. She didn’t just let it slide forever and was willing to put herself on the line. That’s what a hero is, thank you and also thank you to AAM peeps for being so supportive to trans rights.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      You are so right, Mama Bear! As the parent of a trans adult child also, I am with you 100% All the hugs!

    2. c_g2*

      As a queer person yup. This is the kind of ally we need. Not one who’s 100% perfect all the time. Just someone who’s willing to listen and support

  110. BetsCounts*

    Ohhhhh I read it and went back and read it again and will probably read it a few more times today alone. What a fab update and I am so happy for OP & John.

  111. Krakatoa*

    When OP said “this is when things get satisfying!” my first thought was “wait, it wasn’t already?”

    This is Lizzy’s fault and no one else’s. The demotions and firings are fully on her. She was asked repeatedly not to do what she was doing. Even passive aggressive backlash didn’t solve the problem. There are no excuses for her actions, no reason whatsoever why it needed to end with her and the HR person losing their job. She was asked to refer to someone by the name they prefer and refused multiple times. She was being a workplace bully, and she deserved to be fired over it.

  112. TurtlesAllTheWayDown*

    Imagine having to explain you were fired for being a transphobe. Solution: don’t be a bigot.

  113. RC*

    Hooray, OP! You handled this situation so beautifully, and I am *especially* impressed by your respect for John–I understand why you were hesitant to make a big stink about it in order to be sensitive, but boy, you really took that bull by the horns, AND you handled it so professionally.

    May we all have managers as brave and boss as you, colleagues as cleverly snarky as John (love the maiden name move–that’s just brilliant), and leave all our Lizzies behind us.


    1. MissDisplaced*

      Yeah, it’s not always easy to step up and do the right thing. Especially if you’re not at all sure initially.
      But wow! I’m happy for John because Lizzy was just being such an ass.

    2. ...*

      Did they though? They didnt talk to their manager for months because they “thought he might not want to hear it”.

      1. Claire*

        The letter to the team mentioned allowing the behavior to continue for “close to a month”, so not sure where you’re getting “months” from. And that is obviously too long, but considering that OP talked to Lizzy’s boss and John talked to HR, and presumably one or both of them talked to Lizzy first, it sounds like OP started trying to deal with the situation fairly quickly, even though she wasn’t successful.

  114. Winter Is Here*

    At least HR got harassment training on LGBT issues. This year the company where I work decided everyone needed annual anti-harassment training and there was one huge part missing from it. Age, sex, gender and religion were covered. Nothing else.

  115. MissDisplaced*

    I can’t believe Lizzy STILL kept sticking to her guns on her “But, John’s mother’s feelings” shtick even after getting called in about it and told repeatedly to stop. How awful. And how awful she was unwilling to learn a lesson from it.

  116. Anonynony*

    This is, hands-down, one of my very favorite updates ever – I’m nearly crying with how OP’s boss and the head of HR handled everything once they were aware! And OP was awesome in letting John know they had his back and asking what outcomes he wanted and how he wanted to be involved; it showed a huge respect for him.

  117. Sam*

    Man was the wonderful to read. I am a 38 year old trans guy working in a professional field. I have a lot of privilege: educational, economic, and racial. But even I have been subject to pervasive transphobic behavior throughout my career, ranging from micoragressions to outright denial of jobs based solely on my trans status (I am not generally out but it is hard to hide when background checks are conducted). So I loved reading this. It was such sweet justice. Bravo to this manager.

  118. Lucien Nova*

    Oh, this is amazing. Well done OP; you are a wonderful manager who’s shown you genuinely care about the people you manage!

  119. Ghostly Apparition*

    The powerful way this was handled and the happy outcome actually made me tear up a bit!

  120. Boof*

    Thanks OP – I know it can be really confusing when it seems like something is really wrong, but no one around you with apparent authority seems to see it that way. Glad you reached out for confirmation, took the advice to heart; and while I think it was all understandable I appreciate you clearly stating that it was a mistake to have let it go on even as you have. I don’t have the right words but, it shows a maturity and strength to be able to say that you wish it could have been sooner, but hell yes you are going to handle it now.

  121. Chaordic One*

    I’m so glad you acted so courageously and that things turned out so well. I’m feeling a bit verklempt reading about it.

  122. me*

    I really appreciate this update for a number of reasons.

    1. Thank you for your detailed steps about how to be an ally to the people who you protect in your organization.

    2. In your meeting with Elizabeth’s boss, she doubled down on her bigotry and her boss said nothing to support you and your team against Elizabeth and had no reaction until he realized that your proactive steps to protect your team would have a business consequence of missed deadlines. Instead of telling Elizabeth to respect the people in the company she works with by having the decency to call someone their name, the boss seemed to think that your BASIC action of shielding the team from bigotry was overkill, even AFTER the extremely detailed explanation OP provided of why Elizabeth was wrong, and why it’s actually a big deal both in terms of respecting others and legal liability. I love that your response to the boss’s ridiculous concern was basically, “I don’t care. This is more important.”

    3. I like that you gave specific steps to the other people who you manage with details about how they should proceed when dealing with Elizabeth and explaining exactly how serious this was. There’s a lot of times that people wonder if something bad is worth reporting, and I like that you specifically identified that this is one of those things.

    4. I’m glad that your organization is taking this very seriously and is having specific training in the future. “She’s calling me something that isn’t my name” can, on the face of it, seem like a really petty disagreement, similar to Rugrats, where Phil and Lil call each other “Phillip” and “Lillian” when they’re mad at each other. I know a lot of people who would roll their eyes at this kind of dispute among adults and not think any more about it. It seems that some former employees at your office had this reaction when the reality is: “She is doing something that is deliberately cruel and specifically targeted at me because I am a member of x class.” Providing this training will hopefully open some eyes, like Elizabeth’s former boss who had trouble making the distinction.

    1. me*

      Also 5: that you kept working at the problem because you knew that your position was right, even when HR wasn’t backing you up and Elizabeth wouldn’t stop.

    2. pureoaknut*

      Alison, this story may qualify for one of your end of year Awards. Talk about brilliant, satisfying and just feel-good. man. I may weep with joy.

  123. NQ*

    We love to hear it!

    Also “not transphobic”, my foot. I’m cis and I’ve used a different name to my birth name for about 15 years now, just because I felt like having a different name. And nobody has EVER tried to call me my birth name “out of respect for my mother”, or for any reason (apart from my one friend who does it for an eyeroll-inducing “joke”).

  124. I’m not crying - you’re crying*

    Sweet sweet social justice. AMAZING – OP, OP’s boss, head of HR, JOHN!!!!! (My hero).

    Btw I’m a clinical psychologist and have a number of trans patients, some of who have few, if any, safe allies at work – I’m like head bumping (to myself – it’s covid times) in celebratory solidarity.

    I love this so much. Thank you, OP and John!

  125. SassyAccountant*

    THIS is the most satisfying update I have read to date on this website. Not only was it satisfying because John got justice and the offenders were booted, but because the OP was so BOSS about rectifying this ongoing issue. It was amazing and I wish we had more people like this out there as managers.

  126. Anon for this one*

    I sincerely hope that every reference check that future companies perform for Liszt bring this up.

  127. Marlaivy*

    Literally – tears reading this. Trans people (and all LGBTQ people – and just PEOPLE) want is to be seen for who they are and treated with respect. That’s what you should expect in the workplace. The sooner we can make common decency, humanity, kindness, and respect the default position in society the better off each and every one of us will be. This company did exactly the right thing and it sounds like this was a really positive growth opportunity for everyone. Hopefully, Lizzie and the fired HR rep will do some soul searching as well to understand why they chose this as the hill to die on.

  128. 'Tis Me*

    Amazing! I especially love the bit where Elizabeth’s manager listened to it all then piped up “wait, could that mean we miss deadlines?” and OP put that into context as calmly and matter of factly as possible because yes – but her team is not being abused any more and this is apparently the only way to achieve this. (Really, that should have been a big heads up to Elizabeth and her manager that they were in serious doodoo.)

    Hooray too for OP’s manager realising that “there’s a bit of tension with Lizzy on Ineffectual’s team calling John the wrong name; I spoke to HR and they say we can’t make her stop” (or whatever “hadn’t really spoken to him about it much” entailed) was actually Lizzie persistently engaging in hate speech in order to create a hostile environment for a member of a protected minority group, and an individual in HR was evidently not very good at their job if they couldn’t see that, both of which needed addressing.

  129. MCMonkeyBean*

    Is this… is this the best update in the history of updates?

    Asking for what John wants! Taking decisive action! Directly calling out transphobic BS! Fantastic followthrough from the higher-ups! Proactive behavior from the company to try to prevent this from happening again! Wow!

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